BONNEMERE, FLORENT, lay brother, Jesuit, apothecary, surgeon; b. 1600 at Bordeaux (France); d. 16 Aug. 1683 at Quebec.
Bonnemere, who arrived at Quebec 14 Aug. 1647, had joined the Jesuits in Paris 23 July 1619. He appears to have been chiefly an apothecary; however, he is known to have taken an interest also in medicine and surgery.
The practice of the apothecary’s art, regulated in France from the time of Charles VII, was in the 17th century controlled by a guild just as medicine was. The apothecaries had their own college, and after an apprenticeship of seven years they had to submit a master’s thesis and a pharmaceutical “masterpiece.” Their principal function was that of preparing medicines as prescribed by doctors; they were obliged to deliver them to the patients at home and to observe their effect. Apothecaries made use of a considerable quantity of medicines compounded from chemical products and medicinal plants and played an important role in the care of the sick. For Louis XIV’s needs alone, there were nine apothecaries in ordinary.
Apothecaries were comparatively numerous in New France. The first one was Louis Hébert, the son of an apothecary of Paris. Several of them were religious, particularly Jesuits, which is perhaps attributable to the fact that the apothecary’s art was not subject to the same restrictions as medicine and surgery with respect to its practice by members of the clergy. The Sulpician Gabriel Souart, the first parish priest of Montreal, having studied medicine before entering holy orders, had to obtain papal authorization to practise his art after his arrival in the colony.
The Recollet brother, Pacifique Duplessis, was an apothecary. The Jesuits, who were in charge of a sizable store of medicines, included a fair number of apothecaries: Brothers Noël Juchereau [see Jean Juchereau de La Ferté], Gaspard Gouault, Florent Bonnemere, Jean Vitry, Jean Boussat, Jean-François Parisel, Charles and Jean-Jard Boispineau*. It is likely that Bonnemere also practised medicine and surgery. He treated the Ursuline Marie de Saint-Joseph [see Savonnières] for dropsy. According to Bonnemere, this nun appeared to him on two occasions after her death (1652), once in order to warn him of mortal danger when he was crossing the St. Lawrence on the ice.
In a notebook entitled “Miracles arrivez en leglise de Ste-Anne du petit Cap Coste de Beaupré en Canadas,” assembled in 1687 by the parish priest Thomas Morel, there is reproduced a document that Bonnemere had signed, adding after his name: “practising medicine at Quebec.”
The Journal des Jésuites (September 1659) contains the following two notes: “de F. Bonnemere; moderanda actio chirurgi circa foemineum sexum” (re Brother Bonnemere: he is to desist from surgical activity for the female sex). And, in the margin: “Chirurgus non curet foeminas” (As a surgeon he is not to attend women). From these two notes one has reason to think that Bonnemere was in regular surgical practice.
ASQ, Paroisses diverses, 84, p.11, and Polygraphie, XIII, 2, p.18 (Thomas Morel, “Miracles arrivez en leglise de Ste-Anne du petit Cap Coste de Beaupré en Canadas,” 1687). Marie Guyart de l’Incarnation, Lettres (Richaudeau), I, 529–31. JR (Thwaites), XXXVIII, 163–65; XXXIX, 267; XLV, 115; LXXI, 147 et passim. JJ (Laverdière et Casgrain). Maude E. Abbott, History of medicine in the Province of Quebec (Montreal, 1931). Ahern, Notes pour l’histoire de la médecine, 65. Boissonnault, Histoire de la faculté de Médecine de Laval, 45. Paul Delaunay, La médecine et l’Église: contribution à l’histoire de la pratique médicale par les clercs (Paris, 1948). Dictionnaire encyclopédique des sciences médicales (1ère série, 26v., Paris, 1864–82), V. J. J. Heagerty, Four centuries of medical history in Canada, and a sketch of the medical history of Newfoundland (2v., Toronto, 1928). Gabriel Nadeau, “Le dernier chirurgien du roi à Québec: Antoine Briault (1742–1760),” L’Union médicale du Canada, LXXX (1951), 705–26, 855–61, 981–98, 1106–15. Les Ursulines de Québec, I, 193f.